Auntie Cara's Misrememberings

Written in response to: Write about a character with an unreliable memory.... view prompt


Fiction Fantasy Kids

My Auntie Cara’s memory is not great. With anyone else, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. So what if they get a detail wrong every now and then?

The problem with Auntie Cara not having a good memory is that there are actually two problems. One, when she gets something wrong, she really gets it wrong. Like, just last week, a new neighbor moved in down the street from us. They had a pet dog. (They did. I promise. When we met them, they had a pet dog named Pickles.) But for some reason, when Auntie Cara and I were talking about the Robinsons a few days later, she remembered Pickles as a pot-bellied pig. Not even close to a dog!

And that leads to the second problem. Because Auntie Cara remembered Pickles as a pig, Pickles is now a pig.

I know what you’re thinking: how does this not create total and utter chaos? You’re probably also thinking: what? How does this even happen or work?

I hear you. But wait, there’s more.

Somehow, when Auntie Cara’s misrememberings become reality, everyone’s brains just align to the new fact her memory has created.

Like with our example with Pickles, the Robinsons’ dog becoming a pig, the Robinsons have no memory of Pickles ever being a dog. There was a brief moment where Mr. Robinson thought he’d had a lapse in memory and bought dog food instead of pig food at the store when he saw the big bag of dog food in their pantry. His line of thinking was: I have a pig, why do I have dog food here?

I know. It all sounds insane. Here’s yet another layer: somehow, my brain is immune to all of this. I know that the Robinsons had a dog when they moved in, not a pig. My mom, Auntie Cara’s sister, is, also, thankfully immune. So between the two of us, we try to keep Auntie’s mouth shut most of the time. Because if Auntie Cara doesn’t say a misremembering out loud, it doesn’t become real. She can think it inside her head all she wants with no effect on the outside world. But as soon as she says, “Pickles is so sweet. I always wished I’d had a pot-bellied pig growing up,” that’s all it takes. Pickles is now a pig and everyone, except me and my mom, accept that as their reality.

One thing we’re thankful for: Auntie Cara is really good with names. Can you imagine if she was constantly misremembering people’s names? 

You might think there’s no harm in it. Since everyone would know the new name except me and my mom, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the ripple effect of Auntie Cara’s misremeberings are… weird. Like with the Robinsons’ dog/pig. Every photo they have of Pickles showed her as a pig after the misremembering. But the dog food was still there.

My mom and I have tried to pick this apart, to understand exactly how the misrememberings work and what is affected. But we haven’t been able to piece it together yet.

So with names, would people’s drivers licenses and birth certificates be updated? What about airline reservations? Employment records? Criminal records? Mom and I both agree the damage could be catastrophic and we’re just glad that’s not on the list of problems we have to worry about. Yet.

It wasn’t always this way. My mom has memories of her and Auntie Cara as kids, everything totally normal. Well, I guess Auntie Cara was always a bit odd, but no misrememberings.

The first time my mom remembers anything going wrong was the day I was born, actually. Which always makes me feel awesome. And it was a big thing.

My auntie Cara came to visit my mom in the hospital just a few hours after I was born. To hear my mom tell it, I was still all red and wrinkly, my hair a little greasy brown pile on the top of my head. Mom let Auntie Cara hold me and Auntie looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Joe would be so proud if he were here.”

My mom, still exhausted and overcome with all the feelings from just having given birth, looked at Auntie Cara in total confusion. “Cara,” Mom said, “Joe’s just getting a coffee from the cafeteria.” My mom knew this to be true. He’d left the room just moments before Auntie Cara arrived.

“Oh Joanie,” Auntie Cara said back to my mom, “No, honey, he’s not. Don’t you remember?”

My mom hesitated to ask, but had to know what Cara was talking about. “Remember what?”

“Joe was in that terrible car crash last week.” My mom stared at her sister, not knowing how to respond to this horrific lie that was being told to her on the day daughter was born. 

And that’s how my dad died. My mom heard rumors that right at this moment, a large cup of coffee seemed to appear out of nowhere, spilled at the entrance to the hospital cafeteria. My mom, of course, questioned hospital staff. Asked where her husband was. But everyone insisted she’d come to the hospital alone, driven by a neighbor who dropped her off at the emergency room, that her sister was the first visitor she’d had.

Motherly instincts must have kicked in because my mother sensed the hospital staff looking at her strangely and she didn’t want them to take me away from her. She quickly made up a story that she must have been loopy from the delivery and from her continued grief over losing her husband. Everyone gave her grace and consoled her. And Auntie Cara had no idea of what she’d done.

It took my mom years to prove her theory of Auntie Cara’s misrememberings. She moved Auntie Cara into our house and kept her inside as much as possible. Auntie Cara had a job she could do online - something about watching TV shows and creating the captions. Though Mom made her quit that after a few years. Auntie Cara just collects disability now so my mom can protect the world from her. 

It also took a while for Mom to convince Auntie Cara all of this was true. She’s explained it to me before, how she did it, but it was super complicated, I really don’t understand it all yet.

In the process, of proving her idea about Auntie Cara’s misrememberings, Mom learned that if Auntie Cara wrote something down, but didn’t say it aloud, things wouldn’t change. So that became their primary means of communication. Auntie Cara would write my mom a note, or text her and my mom could tell her whether or not she was remembering correctly and if it was safe to talk about. Together, Mom and Auntie Cara developed a system of note taking to give Auntie a reliable source of information.

Then, once I was old enough, my mom looped me in on all of this. It was a lot for a five year old to take in. But my mom could see that I wasn’t affected by Auntie Cara’s misrememberings, so she had to help me understand why these strange things would happen. Why suddenly my best friend’s once kinky black hair was now dark ringlets. Why the photos from our vacation to a murky lake in Michigan now showed a clear-watered beach in Florida.

That was seven years ago already. I’ve known about Auntie Cara’s misrememberings for longer than I haven’t known about them. Somehow, I feel like I’m connected to it all. Her first misremembering being on the day I was born, and about my dad, that can’t be a mistake or a coincidence. My mom doesn’t like to talk about those days. I don’t blame her. It must have been lonely and harder than anything I can imagine. 

Still, I want to get to the bottom of this. That’s my plan for this summer: to find out how Auntie Cara’s misrememberings started and find a way to stop them. Before something even worse than my dad dying can happen.

April 08, 2022 19:52

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